This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Determination of Optimal Cropping System for White-tailed Deer in the Southeast and Chufa Response to Nutrient Additions




Johnson, Alexander L.

Type of Degree



Agronomy and Soils


White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginuanus) are an economically important wildlife resource in the Southeast. A significant portion of expenditures related to white-tailed deer goes towards food plot production and management, yet concise information from the scientific community regarding food plot cropping systems is scarce. The objective of this research was to determine the optimal cropping system for white-tailed deer by evaluating forage yield, preference, and quality of 10 warm season and 12 cool season forage treatments. Plots were harvested two times per year during late summer and early spring. Cool season forage production ranged from 11 to 4331 kg dry matter (DM) ha-1 with percent dry DM removed by deer estimated between 14 and 85%. Excluding wheat and wheat in wheat mix, cool season forages met or exceeded concentration requirements for nitrogen (N), calcium (Ca), phosphorus (P), and sodium (Na). Nearly all forages had low fiber values and exhibited good forage quality. Wheat was observed as being preferred during the cool season. Warm season forage production ranged from 0 to 18441 kg DM ha-1 with percent DM removed falling between negative 38 and 92%. Warm season forages generally exceeded tissue N concentration requirements for growth and development. All forages excluding sorghum in sorghum mix and chufa met or exceeded Ca, P, and Na concentration requirements. Observation data suggested preference for soybean and cowpeas during the warm season. It is recommended that wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) be planted along with a companion forage in cool season food plots while soybean (Glycine max L. Merr.), iron & clay cowpea (Vigna unguiculata L. Walp.), or lablab (Lablab purpureus L. Sweet) be planted in warm season food plots. Chufas (Cyperus esculentus L. var.sativus Boeck) are a common wildlife planting in the Southeast. Tubers from chufa plants are a preferred food for wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo). However information regarding fertilization of chufa is inconclusive. During the summer of 2009 a greenhouse experiment was performed to determine chufa response to fertilization. Chufas were planted in 11-L pots, thinned to four plants per pot and fertilized with either nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), or potassium (K). Nitrogen and K rates were; 0, 50, 100, 200, 300, 400, or 800 kg ha-1. Phosphorus rates were; 0, 20, 40, 80, 160, 320, 640 kg ha-1. Each treatment received a standard rate of micronutrient solution, N, P, or K as needed. Above ground growth and tubers were harvested, weighed and analyzed for nutrient uptake. Chufa exhibited an above ground yield response to N fertilization but not P or K. Nitrogen, P, and K uptake increased in above ground growth with nutrient application. Tuber weight did not respond to the treatments, while tuber count increased with N addition. No response was observed in tuber count owing to P or K addition. Tubers had no increase in either N, P, or K uptake owing to fertilization. Results suggest that limited practical response to nutrient application to chufa can be expected. However, field studies to verify these results are warranted.